Saturday, July 24, 2004

Learning to Respond or Not

BentPyramid, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Having just changed my blog format, I'm still learning how it works. I get emails with people's comments, but I only just figured out that they may appear in the blog in some place other than the last post. Yeah, it is a bit elementary, Watson, but sometimes learning takes time.

I've had so many contacts from people who think for whatever reason that Egypt would be a good place to move to and it's hard to know what to say.

There are young and not so young women who meet someone really interesting while on holiday here and they want to know about coming as a wife. As I've noted in earlier posts, all marriages have pitfalls but cross-cultural have more. And to be utterly cynical, there are many very attractive men here who see a foreign wife as a good investment. He can get a non-Egyptian passport, maybe go live somewhere else, and as everyone knows, foreigners are rich. Well, maybe not everyone, because someone forgot to tell my banker. My advice here is the same as to my daughter: Men may come and go, but your skills, education, your own bank account, and bills stay forever. Always preserve as much of your independence as possible.

JessicaDances asked if it was easy to be brown in Egypt...sure, just skip the sun screen. Seriouisly, colour is not one of the most important defining factors in Egypt. There are people of every shade and if they are going to be judged without prior knowledge, it will most likely be by social class. There is some colour discrimination here as well, but it isn't like in the has an Egyptian flavour. They say that every Egyptian has a Sudanese cousin, and this is highly likely since Egypt and Sudan were the same country until sometime in the late 50's or early 60's. My late husband's family would come to iftar (the breaking of the fast in Ramadan) at our house and we would have about 40 guests of every shade possible from my blonde, my daughter's auburn, to the darkest black...but we are all the same family. I've seen Egyptian families, especially those of Turkish origin who have fair skin, light eyes, and reddish hair, turn up their noses at someone who is dark in colour, but no one would be rude to someone for this...they just wouldn't make a marriage proposal. Prejudice never makes sense.

One of the most interesting phenomena I've ever witnessed was the adjustment of the African American kids whose parents were transferred here for work. They would go to the American school where my children attended and it would either be a completely demoralising or an utterly freeing experience because they found themselves in a city and school where their skin colour was really of minor importance. For many, it was lovely to watch them bloom (I taught at the school for years as a substitute so I got to know most of the students and teachers), but for some they shrank back inside themselves because they'd lost a major element that they'd used to define themselves. I suspect that the situation was much like that of immigrants to North America who choose to live with others of their background because it's very difficult to find a new way to define themselves. We had a lot of Egyptian friends like that in Canada.

Now, to bring this around to another previous discussion, I've never had a problem with being harassed on the streets or anywhere else in Egypt, and I've spent my time here going to all sorts of places that my Egyptian friends find horrifying. That a foreign woman just goes wandering around...why people might be rude to her! Even used to drive my husband nuts. But, a friend of my daughter's once told me that he didn't think that anyone would ever bother me because I was "fierce". I had to laugh at that because "fierce" has never been an aspect that I worked to achieve.

I do, however, have a self-definition that includes being polite to people around me, treating others with respect, and expecting this treatment in return...and I am rarely disappointed. When I am, I usually express this disappointment as politely but firmly as possible. Maybe this is "fierce"...I wouldn't know, but it does give my personal space, even in the most crowded souq, a slipperiness that doesn't let people in to bug me easily. The other thing that helps a lot is that for me life is much too short to go about being angry over someone else's stupidity. I figure that they will suffer enough from it on their own. I believe that one's self-definition is a major part of independence in all aspects of life whether marriage, motherhood, working or dealing with the mechanic.


Skadi said...

Wow your life sounds amazing. I love your attitude towards life and how you love being in Egypt. I have always wanted to go to Giza and see the real Egypt. Not just the touristy stuff. I've applied to do Egyptology and Anthropology at Uni. My mum is an Egyptologist too :-)

Take care,

David said...


i want to move to egypt. my father is egyptian. i'm living now in austria but i want to move to sharm el sheikh within the next years. i love egypt and the people their.

very nice weblog you have. best regards, david

Life in Satna said...

Hi Maryanne,

I read with interest your notes well written. You have very nicely described the problems facing by women of all the ages. I dont remember who has said, but appears to be very true. -- Weaker sex are stronger because of their weakness towards the stronger sex. -- Though they are considered women as a weaker sex, but in the reality, they are really stronger because they have to adapt themselves in that way to survive.

Actually, in the society they are weaker not because they are weaker mentally or phiscially, but because they are biologically weaker when compare to the males. They fear the society more than the male counterparts. But now the situation has changed considerably and now they are really stronger than the males because they are now more competetive than in all the fields. They have become more effficient and intelligent than men, because the way they are exposed to the circumstances.

I trust that you have enjoyed very good in your life and I am grateful to the Blog who are responsible for my meeting many friends thru this column.

I have recently started writing and publishing short stories in these columns and few more are in the pipe line. Would appreciate, if you could some of your valuable time in reading my short stories. You can mail me your comments also thru email, which is there in my profie.

Best wishes to you


Mundomeu said...

Hi, Ia want just say hi, and I like your blog. Can you speak portuguese ? If yes, read my blog :

Anonymous said...

What on earth will make a Canadian Muslim who live in Egypt speak portugese!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be blunt or even 'fierce',
so you basically are saying that you gave up your religion and became Muslim to be able to be eligible for inheritance? I dunno how religious you were, or what Christianity meant to you, but is this really a reason to leave Christianity to Islam because, as you said, both religions meet on the mystic level, or because, after all, most Egyptians are not that religious?
Mmm.. I'm sorry I sound rude because for me, the Christian message is very clear although many stupid people misinterpret it and go to war in its name; still, mysticism is a core part in Christianity. Cathoics and Orthodox alike are very careful to pick their leaders form monasteries; in Islam, mysticism is considered by the majority of authorities as a distorted form of ritual Islam.
I'm not a stupid fanatic or a blind-minded person; but I bet the Gospel, even if Jesus is nothing for you but a teacher, is still so strong and I wouldn't give it up for children or inheritance or whatever. He himself said, whoever goes after husband, son, daughter for me doesn't deserve me!
Jo, said...

nice article.

akcesoria gsm | sklep gsm | hurtownia gsm

Marcos Munoz said...

Alguien tendra que traducirte:

Maravilloso, exquisito -alimento para el alma; sigue porque
si te detienes no nos gozaremos con tus escritos.

daisy said...

hi! i just want you to know that i like your blog and i find all your articles and stuffs posted very interesting...i guess, i would prefer reading your blog than reading world history books in my history class..

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